Kazemde George speaks

Hello Greenleaf family!

First of all I’d like to thank Dave Douglas and the whole Greenleaf Music team for helping me release my first ever album. It’s a privilege to have my work presented by such a well-run and well-respected outfit!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Kazemde George (think: “Kaz-em-day”, and I also go by Kaz!). I’m a saxophone player and composer from Oakland California, and my album, I Insist, is out today! I went to school in Boston (NEC and Harvard), and spent a year studying music in Havana, Cuba, before moving to Brooklyn, New York.

During my last seven years living in New York I have been developing the music that you hear on I Insist. One important musical outlet for me during this time has been the weekly jam sessions that I have hosted at different venues around Brooklyn. During these sessions I was able to create a space where I could come together with other dedicated young players to hang out, share a drink, and challenge ourselves musically by playing through standards. This became our playground, and also my rehearsal space! Every week I would ask my house band to read new songs that I was working on; we would learn to play the music together in front of an audience, and I would start to parse out what worked and what didn’t. The ten tracks we recorded for I Insist are the strongest pieces that I developed during this time. For the most part, the songs don’t involve complex arrangements or long through-composed passages, but my goal was rather to present clear and beautiful melodies underpinned by harmonic structures that invite the players and listeners to find and create new melodies (pathways) through the songs.

I feel very lucky when I get to play my music with my friends and Sami (my wife), Isaac, Tyrone and Adam did a great job on this one! Before recording at Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, we played a series of back-to-back shows at the Black Cat in San Francisco, which helped us learn the songs and tighten our musical communication. When we came back to Brooklyn to record, the songs were starting to feel like second nature, and I hope that that feeling of comfort comes through to you, the audience!

The album is dedicated to my mother, Katrina Scott-George, a “social justice warrior” before it was cool, and the title is a reference to one of my favorite albums: We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Suite. The music reflects a lot of my thoughts about race, identity, and blackness, the significance of African and Black art in our society, and the struggle for justice that many around the world have been engaged in for far too long. I have many interconnected thoughts on these subjects, many of which are controversial, and convoluted, so I won’t fully expound here (there are many who are more eloquent and knowledgeable than I: James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, etc.). Suffice it to say, the same issues that my mother worked to find solutions to through education, and that Max Roach wished to address in his music are still at large. We need to continue fighting to stamp out systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty, and create equal opportunities for the people in our society who are currently lacking basic rights and resources. The music may not express these things explicitly, but I see my music as an expression of black art and therefore this message must be included.

On a lighter note, I am looking forward to the release show tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 23) at Bar Bayeux, right in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. We are coming together once again to play the songs from the album, and it feels good to take this project from the “we are rehearsing in front of the audience” phase to the “we are presenting a polished finished product” phase. Looking further into the future, I already have a new batch of songs that I am starting to cook up, and as I continue to grow and develop I hope to continue sharing with you all!

But for now….

I Insist!



[Editor’s note: Kazemde’s beautiful new album, I Insist, is available now.]